It has been over a month since the presidential election, and the dust still has not settled from the shock of Donald Trump winning the coveted seat or the demand for recounts of votes.
It took me some time to find the words to articulate the reality that I will live in a Trump-led America come January. This is the America that has no regard for human dignity, empathy, or compassion. This is the America that we have tried so hard to deny that existed by erroneously stating that we lived in a post-racial society after electing our first black president. This is the America that those who are multi-marginalized like myself live in every day, and such realities will only get harsher as officials are appointed who actively support every type of bigotry and offense there is.
I was asked by Nora Whelan, a writer for Buzzfeed, to share my thoughts about a Trump presidency as a disabled person, and the grave consequences for our community. I know that many of us are still gathering our words, but I must continue to use my voice to speak the truth, and remain steadfast in the work that will lie ahead for us all.
Here is my response in its entirety:
As a black disabled woman, I knew what was at stake in the 2016 presidential election. I wrote about how though Hillary Clinton was not my ideal candidate for the Democratic ticket, I could not in good faith vote for Donald Trump. Donald Trump had insulted all three of my identities – he mocked disabled people, he projected gross and harmful stereotypes about African Americans, and he unapologetically displayed misogynistic views towards women and had been accused of violating several women in the past. Donald Trump embodied (and still does) everything that I fight against as a Womanist (Womanism is black feminism), and I was deeply troubled at how many people continued to overlook his undeniable transgressions.
When I woke up on November 9 and learned that I will live under a Trump presidency in 2017, my heart sank. I knew that bigotry and hatred would become more overt, and fear will take root in the minds of many. I began thinking about my grandmother, and in some ways, felt that I now knew what life was like for her as a black woman in rural South Carolina under Jim Crow. To live in a time where racist, offensive politicians dominated public office and to have your civil and human rights belittled and made inferior were her realities when she was my age, and it has now become mine in 2016. My deepest concern is the winding back of the clock of progress under a Trump presidency, which will mean grave consequences to those of us who live within multiple margins of identities like myself.
As a disabled black woman, I worry about how important programs disabled people rely on to thrive (such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, ACA, SNAP/food stamps, housing assistance, inclusive education supports, social services, mental health services, etc.) will be at risk of being significantly dwindled or dismantled altogether. “What will America look like for disabled people under Trump?” have been the burning question on the minds of disabled advocates since the election. The fear of us literally dying if our lifelines (the supports, services, and programs aforementioned) disappeared is real. To be in a state of distress about whether these supports will continue and how drastically they may be changed are not light-hearted matters for our community. To see those of whom I care about stress over what could occur over the next 4 years struck a profound nerve within me; no one should have this impending loom of dread to process and live with.
Personally, I am still processing what could happen to me and those I know, but I refuse to live in fear. The election energized me to keep fighting for black disabled women and other women of color, which is my advocacy focus. A Trump presidency will not silence my voice; it will not prevent me from demanding civil and human rights be respected and to protect the ones we have; and I will not be intimidated by racists, bigots, misogynists, etc. as I continue to live unapologetically black, disabled, and a woman. For me, to live in fear means to relinquish power, and I will never give my power away to ignorance and hate, even if it lives in the White House. Now, more than ever, I am charged up to do what is needed, and will continue to make the good trouble I have done for the last three years as an advocate. My disabled existence matters, and I will steadfastly proclaim that for the next four years and beyond.
(Featured headlining image: Courtesy of Pixabay.)
This post originally appeared on Ramp Your Voice!
Ramp Your Voice! is Vilissa’s blog and disability advocacy space where she writes about issues that matters to her as a Black disabled woman, social worker, advocate, and proudly making the “good trouble” in society.